Marionette Generation Vol. 5: Finale
It's been a while, but I still feel warm and fuzzy from the first volume of Marionette Generation, a series I first reviewed something around two years ago. The manga series was penned and illustrated by Haruhiko Mikimoto, famed character designer for the legendary Macross series. More recently, his artwork fills the pages of Baby Birth, an interesting manga series currently available from TOKYOPOP.
Mikimoto's style is very distinct, and more so than the plot, it ends up working as the true point of attraction for this endearing tale. Soft organic lines, emotionally expressive characters, and very appealing color choices for the front cover easily catch a randomly wandering eye, and I'm glad to say it's worth the attention.
Marionette Generation started out slowly, not really coming across too clearly in the beginning. It has an unusual storyline despite possessing familiar themes. The main character, Izumi Morino, is a young artist trying to make it in the competitive field of professional illustration. As can be expected in a romance such as this, there are complications in poor Izumi's love life. For starters, his younger stepsister, Kinoko has a crush on him. It's awkward for Izumi in particular because she's his self-proclaimed assistant, and he relies upon her to help him with much of his work.
And then there's the issue of Lunch. Not the meal, but the doll. Lunch is a sort of free-floating sentience who has decided to take up residence in a rag doll of Izumi's. While possessing the doll, she can animate it and speak through it.
As the story unfolds, we find out that there are many such beings in the world, though they are not often noticed by people. This final volume sheds some light on the nature of Lunch, though much information about her kind remains a mystery by the book's end.
Without ruining it, let's just say that the ending of this series is whatever you choose to make of it.
The plot progresses with dreamlike consistency, flowing from revelation to situation to character development and so on. The presence of Lunch is odd, but it is written in so matter-of-factly that it soon becomes easy to forget that she's a talking pile of fabric filled with stuffing.
Mikimoto's beautiful artwork is of a similar nature to his narrative style. Panels are filled with energy, but rather than focusing it into something tense, the author allows it to wash out of the pages in a soothing way, conveying emotion better than most other manga-ka are able to do. It's very impressive, though the artwork does not overshadow the unique storyline.
Annette Roman did a laudable job adapting this book into English. It still isn't easy to follow, but that's the way Mikimoto wrote it. She didn't try to insert meaning or explanations where none were given in the first place, allowing the tale to flow in an appreciably Japanese manner, where it goes every which way before ending up in a new, possibly confusing, but undeniably fresh place.
Viz kept the series in the same format that it was first published in, which means that the book is larger than their current standard and it has been flipped to read from left to right. The sound effects are also edited. While this does allow the five-book set to maintain editorial consistency, I certainly wouldn't have minded a change to the more common and more authentic format that practically every other manga publisher uses now.
At the rate things are going, I'm sure this series will be re-released five years down the line in a shiny, new, "uncut" edition. And yeah, I'll probably buy those too.
There's an extra short story included in this book, although it may frustrate some readers due to the fact that it sets up some interesting characters, leaving us wishing for more despite the fact that we know that Mikimoto has long forgotten it.
It's clear why Marionette Generation was picked as one of Viz's "Editor's Choice" manga titles, for it stands above a large percentage of the crowd thanks to its sheer imagination and artistic brilliance. It's a different sort of romance with less panty shots and more drama than usual, and with the addition of a talking doll, there's really no way you can go wrong here. Manga aficionados seeking something different should reward themselves by checking out Marionette Generation. It might be confusing, but it's a pleasant, warm sort of disorientation. It's kind of like spinning around in circles on a warm spring day and flopping on the ground as you gaze up in wonder at the continued motion of the scenery around you. You know that you'll enjoy it!